Kyle Coetzer has heaped praise on captain Hollie Armitage as champions Northern Diamonds bid to bounce back in the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy on Tuesday.

Armitage was back in blue for Friday’s nine-wicket defeat against the Blaze at Chesterfield following her first taste of England A duty over the last 10 days.

It was, says Diamonds assistant coach Coetzer, rich reward for a batting all-rounder who will go in search of win number five this campaign when arch-rivals Thunder cross the Pennines to visit York’s Clifton Park on Tuesday (10.30am).

The Diamonds have won four of seven games so far – their title defence in an encouraging but not commanding state following a trio of defeats.

The latest came against league leaders Blaze at Chesterfield when they fell from 55-0 to 185 all out and failed to defend a target on a fast-scoring ground. 

Armitage promises to be key to the hopes of a recovery. Though she only scored eight against the Blaze, she posted an impressive 70 as her best in three England A appearances against their Australia counterparts.

But it’s not just her skills with bat and ball that have impressed ex-Scotland men’s skipper Coetzer.

He said: “I haven’t come across any captains that are better than Hollie. There are some very good captains around the circuit, but she is certainly right up there.

“She’s earned the right to get that recognition (with England). 

“It was rich reward for what’s she been producing. She’s playing some excellent cricket and is making some good decisions with the bat and tactically as captain.

“If she continues to perform the way she has been doing and earns that right, she will be ready to go if anything further comes for her. She does a lot of things really well, and that has to continue.

“But she also needs to continue enjoying her cricket. That’s when you perform at your best.”

One thing Coetzer would like to see from the 26-year-old is for her to use herself more with the ball.

On Friday, she bowled 4.5 overs of leg-spin in defence of 186, going wicketless. Previously, she had only bowled 6.2 overs all season and nothing at all during the Charlotte Edwards Cup T20 campaign.

Last season, she claimed 16 wickets for the Diamonds across both competitions.

“Hollie picks up key wickets,” he said. “That’s one of the challenges of being captain, that you under bowl yourself and don’t give yourself the overs that you perhaps should do. 

“She should be giving herself a few more because she’s a more than capable leg-spinner who, as I say, has the knack of picking up big wickets.”

Diamonds currently sit third in the table on 19 points after seven games. They hold the third qualifying place to secure knockout cricket and have a four-point gap to South East Stars in fourth.

Reflecting on the Blaze defeat, Coetzer continued: “Things didn’t seem to happen for us right the way through that game, and we just need to be a bit more switched on to key moments in games to make sure they fall on our side of the coin.

“It’s good the competition is longer this year with more games, and you can absorb a loss here and there. But you want to be doing yourself justice. We know we’re far better than what we showed.

“We’ve been playing some good cricket. We played really well at Beckenham last Sunday. We will go again at York and put the Blaze game behind us.”

Thunder are bottom of the table and without a win in seven games, losing three of those. That run of games also includes two rainy No Results and two ties.

Their latest tie came against Southern Vipers at Southport on Friday when both sides finished on 262-8.

Thunder were chasing and scored 97 off the last 10 overs with four wickets left and 66 off five with only three in hand. Ellie Threlkeld and Tara Norris both scored half-centuries, with captain Threlkeld saying: “A game like that feels like a win.”

This is the first of two 50-over ‘Roses’ clashes this season, but Thunder beat the Diamonds in T20 cricket at Blackpool last month to qualify themselves for Finals Day and knock the Diamonds out of contention.

Coetzer added: “They’re a side who we always enjoy playing and competing against, and one we always want to beat.

“Our last effort in the T20 probably hurt a few of the girls and the group. The girls will certainly want to go out there and put on a bit of a show and get their own back really.

“It’s always a nice rivalry, and everyone will be up for it.”

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